Moving in South Florida can be a scary endeavor. Locals are ready with stories of "bad neighborhoods" that wildly contradict each other; luxury and crime coexist block by block. Well, nut up and shack up in one of the few truly historic neighborhoods Broward County has to offer. Rich, poor, black, and white coexist along the quiet, walkable streets lined with live oaks north of the New River. Housing ranges from 90-year-old studio apartment buildings with hardwood floors to charming cottages and modern condo flats, all within walking distance of downtown (any closer and you'd hear Himmarshee on a Saturday night). Head east to the Broward Center or west to the Sailboat Bend Artist Lofts, hosting a gallery with frequent exhibitions; walk the pup down to Cooley's Landing Marina to chat with boaters at the site of an Indian massacre. If it weren't for all the lovely dappled sunshine, you might forget you live in Florida. Oh, and don't worry: The Fort Lauderdale police headquarters abuts the neighborhood.

As it should, a zombie apocalypse would start out at a bar called Laser Wolf. Housed in a budding arts district called FAT — which stands for Flagler Arts & Technology — Village, there is irony here. As soon as Fort Lauderdale finally gets a regular, walkable art event, let's destroy it with zombies who run amok. Drab-dressed zombiefolk are so yesteryear; pretty, tatted, indie trendsetters who know how to drink real tasty microbrews at Laser Wolf are in! And no zombie apocalypse worth filming should start at any other time than Saturday at dusk, the fourth one of the month at that — for that FAT Village Art Walk. So the zombies torpedo through warehouses, which are converted into artist studios, theaters, businesses, galleries, a puppet workshop. The zombies are munching on artists (and who wouldn't?). We told you warehouse partying was unscary; not tonight. We said that it was fun, that you would like it. But you're a zombie now. Yes! Cameo! And what other place should the new-zombie-you ransack and eat everyone? Of course, downtown Fort Lauderdale — where there is now no Coyote Ugly, the natural enemy of a profitable movie, to hurt our sales.

Hibiscus Courtyard Lounge

Two blocks from the Clematis Street debauchery in downtown West Palm Beach is a Key West-style cottage with a white picket fence and a courtyard bar. There are tiki torches, palm trees, and a koi pond. Patrons graze on Brie-and-raspberry tarts and crab cakes while sipping melon martinis. Yes, there are plenty of gay men here but also straight women and the obligatory drunk in the corner. Most important, the TV screen is displayed near the French double doors. So when your crew starts to swoon over Matthew Morrison's abs or jeer at Lea Michele singing Liza Minnelli, you'll have plenty of good company.

Boys Farmers Market

Mention to someone in the know that you're planning to stop by the Boys for the first time and he'll likely let you in on two things: 1) The meat, cheese, bakery, and produce sections are out-of-control good; and 2) watch the hell out. The Tetris-like parking lot is overflowing with land yachts commandeered by people who are far too focused on getting inside for a hunk of fresh mozzarella or lamb steaks to pay attention to such trivial matters as rear-view mirrors, strollers, pedestrians, or how to avoid a low-speed collision. And heaven help you if you get between one of those vehicles and the last remaining spot in sight. You're better off parking elsewhere and hoofing it to the entrance. Once inside, you'll be facing a similarly hazardous situation as shoppers wield their carts like battering rams through the tight aisles, with the occasional appendage acting as collateral damage. A harrowing ordeal, yes, but that cheese selection really is quite divine.

Boca Raton was recently named the 12th rudest city in the world, and there's a pretty good shot that every Boca resident will end up on Glades Road. It's a stretch of road where you're most likely to hear obscenities being hollered at the passing elderly. Don't be fooled by the Whole Foods, monstrous Barnes & Noble, and tree-lined campus of Florida Atlantic University. This is a stretch where the middle finger is the appropriate "I'm sorry" gesture.

Several years ago, the "last house" was built in Coral Springs. In other words, every lot big enough to hold a house had been used. Even this western suburb's parks are well-developed, highly engineered centers of human activity, from the carefully manicured baseball and soccer fields to the running trails with workout stops every tenth of a mile to the chlorinated pools with Crayola-colored plastic slides and watchful lifeguards. But tucked behind one such bustling public pool at Cypress Park on Coral Springs Drive (known everywhere else in Broward County as Pine Island Road) is Cypress Hammock/Orchid, a small but breathtaking nature trail. You won't find any pictures of it online. You won't even find a description of it on coralsprings.org — though the site will tell you all about the eight tennis courts, the playground, concession stand, grills, tables, restrooms, meeting rooms, and picnic areas that make up most of the park's 16 acres. But if you can avoid the pool and keep on the sidewalk, walk right on past the tennis courts on your right and the pro shops on your left and go just past where you think the park ends — and you will find something special. A boardwalk seems to hover a few feet above a prehistoric jungle of ferns. The pop and squeak of people playing tennis can't be heard here. The roar of the pool slides and swimming kids does not penetrate. Other than the call of the occasional bird, you are suddenly in a silent primeval oasis in the middle of Coral Springs. If you stop halfway along the trail, stand perfectly still, and let the humidity soak into your clothes, hair, and skin, you can imagine what this area was really like before we came along. And if all that nature freaks you out, don't worry — there's a concession stand 30 feet away.

Exchange Club Park

There are about a hundred miles of beautiful sandy beaches stretching from the northern border of Palm Beach County to the southernmost point of Broward County. But alas, no dogs are allowed. Sure, sure there's that stretch of beach in Fort Lauderdale that allows dogs three days a week, but that just doesn't scream "We love dogs!," does it? If you're sick of the scene at Canine Beach, you will find a doggy water paradise on 24th Street in Pompano Beach. The city officially calls it Exchange Club Park, but you won't find signs pointing your way in to this secluded, locals-only spot. The small city park meets up with a bend in the Intracoastal that flows with crystal-clear water from the inlet nearby. Here, your furry friend can splash out into the water at will — no hourly restrictions, no special registration fee. Just mind the park hours, make sure your dog has all her shots, and be a good canine neighbor.

Plantation Heritage Park

Heritage Park, all 88.5 acres, used to be owned by Fred Peters, the shoe scion who basically designed Fort Lauderdale's original western suburb, Plantation. Then it was an agricultural testing ground for the University of Florida. But in 1984, it became what it was always meant to be — a beautiful oasis in the middle of suburban Florida. It's there that nearby residents can jog or walk around the huge lake — which is always stocked with plenty of birds to watch and paddleboats to rent. Numerous and huge picnic areas dot the lake and are popular for large family reunions and company retreats. For the kids, there's a huge playground that'll keep them happy for hours. That's the beauty of Heritage Park — everything there is big. Mostly it's just a big open space in the middle of bustling suburbia. And that's a heritage that Plantation and its founder, Fred Peters, can be proud of.

Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center

Despite what seems like developers' best efforts, there are still a few great, open stretches of land in South Florida, and one of the true gems of southeast Palm Beach County is this expansive wildlife playground. In no other context but in referring to the Everglades could the word primordial become a cliché, but how else to sum up a flat, unpolished parkland where visitors are allowed to wander out into the marshes with nothing separating them from the cold reptilian clutches of a gator but their own wits and a good pair of running shoes? Nature is a fickle beast, and there's no guarantee you'll always spot a gator, but the chances are better than good. There are no tourist-trap bells and whistles, just a fascinating and (occasionally frighteningly) up-close look at the way our state looked before "progress" moved in.

W Fort Lauderdale
Courtesy of the W Fort Lauderdale Hotel

Walk out the fifth-floor glass doors and into the pool area at the W Hotel on A1A, and euphoria is the only way to describe the sensation. The enormous pool expands in all directions, and if you squint, it's hard to decipher where the pool ends and the panoramic ocean view begins. The best part is that in the offseason, the W opens its doors to the public for "Salvation Sunday" pool parties, weekly from 12:30 to 8 p.m. It's the ideal location to sip a bloody mary and mingle at the white, shiny bar with others who feel living in South Florida calls for at least an afternoon per week of vacation-like activity. Curl up on one of the world's cushiest lounge chairs, bake in the sun, and then take a dip in the pool. Ahh, that's better.

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